H&M recently made headlines for a derogatory image that featured a young black boy in a green hoodie that read:
The coolest monkey in the jungle.
This degrading image depicts how the world views the black body simultaneously proving reminiscent of the 2011 Soho billboard that featured a black child in asserting
the black female womb as “the most dangerous place for an African-American.” The use of the African minor in both instances illustrates a sadistic assault on our collective–an assault that births the sullied perspective that shapes black life long before conception.
Actualizing “The Coolest Monkey in The Jungle”
The featured child evokes Benga, a black youth featured in what is now known as the Bronx Zoo. In Medical Apartheid, Harriet Washington delineates Benga, a sun-kissed African youth of a small stature, distinctive teeth and ears, as featured alongside “Dinah, a gorilla, and an orangutan called Dohung” (Washington). Washington referenced Benga as playing a major role in what she calls “scientific racism.” To juxtapose Benga to the small black child featured in H&M’s ad, exposes scientific racism as ever-present in media, but more so unveils media as a science that inevitably intertwines racial ideas to ensure that whites feel good and blacks feel badly in visually consuming these images. The result is the worse kind of violence, the one that does not happen with the hands, or mouth—but one that sears through the eyes and tears through the soul, irretrievably burning the flesh.
This type of assault culminates temporary visibility in a contemporary climate—an assault that prompts temperate upset but fails to disrupt the capital that thrives in black consumerism.
This wound festered via the world white web, imbued increased agitation in a Steve Harvey clip many consumers aligned with the H&M featured image. In the clip, Harvey makes light of selling out for the “right” price–proclaiming that he would be “the best monkey they ever seen” for four million dollars. The audience can be heard laughing as Harvey begins to imitates a monkey for what I am sure is far less than four million. Pardon me, but I fail to find the humor in selling out. Perhaps the most violent part of this portrayal is Harvey stating that “ black people would be so embarrassed.”
This clip in execution and content was extremely embarrassing, illustrating the context to which violent images like the one seen with this young black child function permissibly. It also illustrates that while limited to white letters on a green shirt in the H&M image, white media actualizes “the coolest monkey in the jungle” in melanated folk like Steppin’ Fetchit, Steve Harvey, Martin Lawrence, Terry Crews, Eddie Murphy, Tyler Perry, The Wayans, Omarosa, Tiffany Haddish and other “skinfolk” who willingly strive to be “the coolest monkey in the jungle” in reducing themselves to caricatures for a coin.
The jungle is of course the white media– a modern circus that displays the exploited black body as beast to stroke the white ego at the expense of black collective integrity.
“The coolest monkey in the jungle” spits in the face of the black ancestors and elders who made the ultimate sacrifice to transition the black body off the auction block, an auction block so many willingly mount to make a dollar. A dollar being not a widow of opportunity but a piece of paper that embodies a value solely dictated by the white collective.
Examining “the coolest monkey in the jungle” as actualized in other facets of media, begs the question as to whether folk are as upset about the H&M image as they are about other demeaning representations of the same negativity?
Furthermore, in examining black bodies that assume placement as monkeys in white media, this issue then is not so much being called a monkey, or a n*gger, but being treated as one. So whether wearing a shirt with a derogatory statement, hypnotized into mistaking labels for liberation, or appearing simple or belligerent for a check, the black body remains imprisoned in the contemporary circus called media. This circus easily becomes a means to substantiate treating blacks like monkeys and n*ggers in substantiating why local businesses check receipts, demand their black consumers order from behind an bullet-proof glass, or follow blacks around the store.
Deserving the Black Dollar
The contemporary manifestation of the exploited black body is a socially reproduced image of our past that evokes the troublesome `political juxtaposition between black beings and animals–and a poisonous image produced by H&M to garner attention in creating controversy to drive sales. Namely, while there are those who will never (or pretend not to) patronize H&M because of this overtly racist image, there are plenty that will shop at H&M just because they featured this anti-black image.
While an insult to the black collective, this advertisement proves symbolically profitable to whites. Thus, the advertisement proves why whites should patronize H&M, and illustrates why H&M, like all businesses anchored in achieving a capitalistic advantage at the expense of furthering black economical disenfranchisement, does not deserve the black dollar.
In the same breath, the issue with the revelation of H&M’s prejudice is that it resulting outrage is ephemeral. Like Dove and Nivea, H&M reserves a place alongside the recently ousted white franchise that function as isolated incidents of single white businesses that do not deserve black support. These incidents are of course not isolated, but smoke that signals a flame of racism and prejudice that remains ubiquitous despite contemporary culture’s attempt, amidst literal bullets flying towards black bodies, that racism is an individual not a collective problem.
From Consumership to Change
Blacks have enough consumer power to, at the very least, produce chance. Yes, it is far harder for blacks to start businesses due to our economical disenfranchisement and systemic suffocation. But this disenfranchisement does not stop many of us from overindulging in luxuries that transform“ours” to “theirs.” I say this not to admonish, or castigate—as I too have been guilty of overindulging and over prioritizing materialism in my not-so-distant past. This is not to say that blacks can not and should not have “nice” things, but that blackness and economic integrity is that “nice” thing we deserve as a collective.
For this reason, H&M, one of many companies who creates products from third-world slavery to exploit economic slaves of the systemically disenfranchised, will probably never face the scrutiny and boycott it deserves. Brands that have become staples in a consumer culture are praised for their toxicity and production of addicts, called shoppers, who believe products of high value are worth more than virtue.
NBA superstar Lebron James used his platform and influence to restore black virtue in shifting a negative image into one bearing a positive message. James posted an edited version of the image where the Green sweatshirt reads “king of world.” This was a powerful image that I would like to take a step further. It is one thing to speak of being royalty, and there is another thing to act like it. So I ask you: Would a king or queen trust just anyone to place diamonds in their crown?
Thus, if we truly are royalty, we must exercise discretion to whom we let drape our temples and crowns.
We as a collective can get mad at these images, or allow them to serve as an inside tip to what most (if not all) of these non-black producers think of the black consumer they exploit. Simply put, would you rather patronize someone who sees and treats you as a monkey or a king?
Furthermore, if we, the black collective are going to be mad, let us be mad at ourselves for expecting of other factions what we we owe to ourselves.
Here is a modest list of black owned companies to support instead of those who fail to see us as human.
It is the second morning after the Golden Globes, and the white media is having a field day sensationalizing the Oprah Winfrey speech that seemingly brings black female sexual assault to the forefront. Specifically, Winfrey is lauded for speaking of the late Recy Taylor, a black woman who endured decades of mental and physical torment following a viscous sexual attack performed by six white men. The speech performs the pseudo activism that has become customary in contemporary culture. Oprah, a staple in the black community for her fictive ability to consummate whiteness in her acquisition of wealth, and a staple in the white community for her personification of the mammy character, remains a forgotten white affiliate to many within the black collective.
Americanizing the African Struggle
Let us not forget that Oprah Winfrey, a melanatated woman, has proved a bridge for white men Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, and Craig Wright, creator of Greenleaf—a show about a black family, to achieve stardom. While brining Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God to the big screen, Winfrey has done a significant amount to accelerate an already privileged demographic despite imbuing consistent praise as a portrait of black excellence. Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech, though seemingly centralizing black female sexual assault, places Winfrey at the front of the #metoo movement illustrating black excellence, as defined by whites, as upholding ideas of white supremacy.
Yes, despite media coverage to the contrary, the #metoo movement is not a stride away from white supremacy, but a veiled stride to strengthen it.
This fact is personified in Winfrey’s feminist speech that places her at the boots of white women in their #metoo march to white female supremacy. The #metoo movement, despite its tireless efforts to recruit the black female form and other beings of color, is rooted in the traditional version of woman defined as a non-male white. The recruited function to aid white women to the throne, believing that white female reign will differ from that of their male counterparts, while the initial erasure the #metoo hashtag garnered Tarana Burke—the black woman who started this phrasing, proves otherwise.
The erasure of the black female form is pervasive in feminism— a pattern epitomized not overturned in Winfrey’s speech. Winfrey’s speech Americanizes the systemic and physical violence subjected to the black female body. To place Recy Taylor’s sexual and systemic assault in the #metoo dialogue suggests that what happened to Recy could happen to any “woman—“ an assertion that is as dangerous as it is untrue. What happened to Recy Taylor, Betty Owens, and Tawana Brawley illustrates what every conscious black female form understands—that to this white society, we are not woman. The sexually and systemically mutilated black female form illustrates the blood shed and sanity sacrificed to ensure the white female form, and the white female form only can encompass the woman label.
It is also imperative to note that what happened to Recy Taylor, Betty Owens, Tawana Brawley and the innumerable amount of black female bodies subject to the inconsequential sexual assault of white men, did not happen to everyone—it happened to black women and this continues to happen to black women in the shadows of a society that only sees black women as Maury guests, welfare queens, or reality stars. Thus, Winfrey’s actions are not ones of acknowledgment, but of assault. Winfrey illustrates the bullet cast to the black collective when folk choose gender over race. Furthermore, Winfrey’s Americanizing of African sexual and systemic assault, depicts anecdotes of African injustice as only valid when ejected from a “black” context. For if acknowledged in a black context stories like Recy Taylor, Betty Owens, Tawana Brawley are dismissed as lies birthed to “divide” the “united” states—oh, the irony.
It is also worth mentioning that this reference to Recy Taylor, also comes after her transition from elder to ancestor, her terror now archived in a romanticism that is approachable since those who would initially question her role in her assault can no longer look Taylor, a symbol of the same terror that birthed the nation to which we reside, in eyes that have seen the height of white evil.
So despite the decision of many attendees to wear black clothing to symbolize “solidarity,” the wearing of black clothing symbolizes the death of the black female form and the rise of woman. The golden globes’ pseudo demonstration of solidarity in black attire proves an insult to black people as the people in black would rather wear black than acknowledge blackness as outside a white framework. The old saying “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” seems fitting here, as The Golden Globes featured a number of anti lacks in black clothing. So while marketed as solidarity, it is more fitting to say that the people in black selected their hue so not to taint whiteness.
#metoo and the Cost of Black Female Recruitment
The #metoo argument is essentially a gender conflict between whites—a battle for the supremacist throne. Black bodies, as seen in Winfrey and countless other black people emerging as tools in enforcing a white agenda, are simply casualties in a war the white woman has launched against the white man. Particularly, #metoo is part of a feminist agenda composed to engender white female supremacy.
Considering this truth makes you wonder if the popularizing of a certain woman-dominated family that starts with the letter “K” was actually foreshadow for the wave of feminism that now dominates contemporary culture. I would be remiss not to point that feminism in in part and whole is a violent mockery of black familial structure. As asserted by Hortense Spillers in “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe” the matriarchal structure reflected in black society—illustrates the influence of white colonialism. Namely, the matriarchy that dominates many black families is birthed from the systemic emasculation of black men. Thus, black matriarchy is not one of choice but one of coercion.
Contemporary feminism seeks to encompass this coerced structure in seeking to render the same fate rendered to the black man for centuries, to the white man– by any means necessary. This of course has not been the result, as black men continue to face outrageous charges for rape like Kaquawn Lane who recently received a 77-year sentence, while white men, though outed, resume the right to roam and rape. There is also a clear demarcation between race and gender as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Matt Lauer fall into the #metoo movement because they are men, but Tavis Smiley falls victim because he is black.
Thus, as a recruited feminist agent, the black female form not only reduces the impact of her own collective suffering, but assumes a role in systemically wounding her own men. Nonetheless, what the masses witnessed at the golden globes—from the black attire to Winfrey’s speech, are the “means” taken to deliver the white female body to the finish line of white female supremacy.
Examining these “means” to almost makes you wonder whether Caitlyn Jenner was a woman trapped in a man’s body, or a man seeking to occupy the direction of societal dominance. As a trans-woman, Jenner has received far more acknowledgement as woman than any black woman. For as Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover hung from newsstands throughout the globe in July 2015, Sandra Bland, a twenty-eight year old black woman, hung from her cell. Almost three years later, Bland’s name has dissolved into the dust as Jenner remains a point of reference.
Nevertheless, it is imperative that black body not choose a side in yet another attempt for the white world to appropriate a tool of black disenfranchisement as a tool of white liberation.
In closing, what makes the Golden Globes “golden” is the same thing that makes Oprah relevant, and deems blacks like Sterling K. Brown noteworthy only when occupying white spaces, or in Brown’s case– functioning to illustrate the good in white people and white society.
So whether a recipient of a golden globe, or a reference in an acceptance speech, the Golden Globes proved that while the world hears “me too,” the conscious community hears “nah, not me though.”
kweli.tv offers a streaming surface anchored in films produced by black people for a black audience. The platform serves as a means to combat the negative portrayals of black people that continue to dominate black portrayals in white media. With almost all of their content garnered from black film festivals, Kweli, Swahili for truth, proves a solid means for the black collective to indulge in the beauty of black culture—unsullied by whites.
PS: It’s monthly membership is also cheaper than Netflix!
Essence Returns to Black Ownership
After years of representing the black female perspective from as a branch of Time Inc coperation, Essence is once-again black owned. Although owned by Sundail Brand founder Richelieu Dennis, who recently sold Shea Moisure, Dennis has relinquished one pillar in black economics to own another. While my feelings towards the gesture remain ambivalent, I am very happy that a publication that has been a staple in the black community as long as Essence has is back to black ownership!
Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow is banned in New Jersey prisons
Many are probably wondering why this one made the list. One, the issue is not so much that the book was (temporarily) banned, but that folks did not see this coming. Jersey, in the arrest and inhumane treatment of our beloved Assata Shakur, has already illustrated its cowardly combat to take down blacks who refute their systemic domination. Thus, Alexander’s efforts to tell the full story of incarceration, also proves a threat to a system who benefits on the ignorance of the masses.
Thus, despite eventually being deemed unconstitutional, the initial band on a much needed narrative on contemporary colonialism, illustrates that you’ve done something very right, when white institutions fear your influence.
This also illustrates that while withheld from those detained in the New Jersey prison system, those of us not detained have no excuse not to indulge in the informative text. In a perfect world, everyone in the collective would read a copy and send a copy to an incarcerated member of the collective.
But in an imperfect world, this bad news will prove good for Alexander’s book sales.
Miss Alexander, I take my hat off to you!
Moral: It’s not about being anything but pro-black!
Cheers to 2018 as another year of black excellence!
I’ll be honest with you, I never intended to author a post on Cardi B. The post reflects an aspiring writing seizing an opportunity to practice the skill to which she has dedicated my life.
Before I continue, I want to state that I do not regret anything that I posted. I do however regret the aftermath of my articulation—namely bringing the disingenuous and intellectually impenetrable to a blog designed to expose the labyrinth of a global racial paradigm.
Soaring Stats: A Gift and a Curse
Saturday marked the most readers my blog has ever seen. Three and a half years ago when I started this blog, this news would have been great. The traffic however, was not those seeking a collective consciousness, but those who maintain a proximity to blackness but seek to centralize what they compartmentalize as their faction, in discussions of blackness.
Specifically, this increased traffic was solely credited to Cardi B, and those solely interested in engaging blackness from an Afro-Latin/Latinx perspective. So while the majority of the hate-spewed comments accuse me of being ethnocentric, the argumentative interest prompted by my Cardi B. post was in fact fomented by ethnocentricity.
To those who counter my assertions, I ask you—where was the influx of “Afro-Latin”* commentary on my post remembering Recy Taylor—the black woman gang-raped by white men in 1944? Where were you a last week when Erica Garner passed? And where are you yesterday when as the black community honored black author Zora Neale Hurston on what would have been her birthday?
I want to point out that all of the previously mentioned names are those of black females born in America, just like Cardi B. But neither of my articles speaking of those bearing the same blackness my skeptics claim to believe in, garnered any traction from the Latinx community.
Where was your interest in blackness when not anchored in the location of your drop off?
The answer is simple— basking in the ethnic deflection created by the sorcerers of white supremacy, claiming the many labels, like Puerto Rican and Dominican, created by the white man to diversify how they call us all n*ggers.
I would have welcomed a proposal to partner with a diasporic sibling to widen my pan-Africanist scope. I would have welcomed a critique demanding I acknoweldge the diasporic black female form like the late Isabel la negra—but this is not the critique.
No, the overwhelming amount of insults, accusations of ignorance, and declarations of my misunderstandings of colonialism, reflect the colonized minds of those who place nationality before race, and attack truth to maintain the fallacy necessary to eschew looking the true villain in the eye.
Most of the comments on my piece on Cardi B, are from those who did not bother to read
the article. The article specifically acknowledges diasporic Africans as descendants of the same black bodies abducted from the shores of Africa. But rather than take the article for what it actually said, many approached the piece with their own insecurities regarding all that they’ve gained from blacks whom did not choose their placement in America.
Yet despite my descendance from the same abducted black bodies that birthed by brethren outside the U.S., I have been credited for stealing my own ancestors, for doing the white man’s work of dividing the most beautiful and resilient people offspring of Africa.
Namely, what makes these comments problematic is the personalizing of a collective argument, by attacking what my skeptics perceived as a representation of the haughty “African-American,” while the true villains escape these scathing replies and instead maintain their esteemed place in the bloodline, the employment, and bed, of my mythic adversaries. These verbally violent acts– socially reproduced almost two-hundred times in the last seventy-two hours– not only depict misdirected anger, but reflect the type of cowardice that brings our shared oppressors to tears of joy.
Africa is the common branch to all her lost children, but to act as though some of her children have not forgotten the black foremothers and forefathers of their past, is sheer denial of the part many of Africa’s children play in the wrath of white supremacy. While certainly not limited to Africans outside the U.S., the migrant black is often given an easy out by the American white supremacists who wish to discount the horror inflicted onto blacks in the “land of the brave and home of the free.”
Now, my blog does not discount that that there are diasporic Africans, like the late and prolific Arthur Schomburg and Dr. Ben who made incomparable contributions to blackness. Though also born in Bronx like Cardi B, Dr. Ben is absent from ALL criticisms of my diasporic siblings, which reflect the limited and prejudiced scope of my skeptics. Dr. Ben reflects those who placed nationality second to their African origins– those throughout the diaspora that welcome their separated siblings with open arms, and dedicate their life to the whole of blackness. But in the same breath that I remember and honor the late Dr. Ben, I would be remiss to acknowledge the overwhelming majority that do not mirror his actions or ideology.
This assertion does not mean that those with African ancestry must identify as black–there is no pressure to associate with blackness. The conscious objective is not to “convince” folk that they are black, but embracing those who do.
Yet, the issue with the post was not so much my analysis of Cardi, but that me, a person of the black collective not only understands the unmatched contribution of blacks to the globe, but possesses the confidence to shout it from the mountaintops.
I, like countless other blacks who stand up despite the pervasive expectation that blacks must lie down and take the exploitation and appropriation violently handed to them by those inside and outside the black diaspora, endure the labels of “bitter” and “angry.” Labels that function to cloud black confidence with the same negativity–namely bitterness, anger, and hate– that foments our continued disenfranchisement.
The animosity that accompanied this post, mirrors the animosity endured by the outspoken black deemed bitter, angry, and difficult by whites threatened by blacks who articulate an incisive understanding of what has been designed to destroy them.
The question is not and never has been whether an individual is “black enough,” but how present blackness is in the life and identity of a person who considers themselves black. Light skin does not discount one’s blackness, as Prince, Michael Jackson, and Beyonce, while flawed, have never stated that they are not black. Rihanna, though a black woman, has never identified as a black woman—Amber Rose, though birthed from a black woman discounts her blackness—though both reap the benefits and support from black people and their proximity to blackness, and also function to illustrate the pervasive ideology that the black female form oozes an animistic sexuality.
Orange is the New Black actress to Dascha Polanco, on the other hand, an African of Dominican displacement, has openly proclaimed herself as a black woman, although she plays a Puerto Rican woman on the series. Thus, the issue is not whether you are of African ancestry, but whether you function as a black person. Cardi B, and Bruno Mars have African ancestry, but do not function as black people. Having black blood does not make you black, its about owning your blackness and not treating blackness as a fair-weather friend. It’s about enduring the good, bad, and ugly of the black experience.
It’s about understanding the road you walk on as paved in the blood and bones of your brethren. It’s about joining forces with your black brethren, about aiding in the production of black commerce, be it economical or intellectual—not using black people, black support, or black currency as a key to enter the master’s house.
Rather than accuse me of dividing the black collective, I encourage those who identify as Afro-Latino, or Latinx to consider the ways they function to divide the collective. Particularly, do you check “black” or “hispanic”? “Hispanic,” “Latin,” etc all function similar to terms “mixed” and “biracial.” They are mythic labels implemented to divide the black collective. Thus, by calling yourself any of these names, an individual becomes a facet of a collective war waged against black people.
Namely, the systemic distinction between “black” and “hispanic” is a deliberate act implemented by those who observe a place at the top of the hierarchical structure to divide the black collective with an implication that black and hispanic/latino are mutually exclusive. So rather than ask me whether your displacement in the diaspora or bilinguality qualifies you as black, ask yourself whether you are black enough to check black on paper?
As seen in countless countries populated with Africans displaced in the transatlantic slave trade like Brazil and Haiti, blacks displaced in the United States sacrificed for centuries to engender modern (temperate) liberties. Our efforts, while birthing many feats, have largely knocked down the door for many throughout the diaspora who voluntarily flee to the US to get places that that young boy or girl in the projects will never obtain an opportunity to visit even on a school trip. Contrary to popular belief, this young boy or girl that does not get a chance to seize his or her full potential does not reflect lack of ambition or motiviation. This illustrates how white supremacists have succeeded in dividing and conquering the black collective, how the white supremacist society has succeeded in using our own siblings to systemically disenfranchise their own people.
(If you read this reference in the comments under my original Cardi B. post, I apologize for my redundancy.)
In her autobiography, Assata Shakur delineates the divide and conquer technique in an anecdote from her childhood. She recalls a summer trip to an amusement park where she and her family were initially refused because of the color of her skin. Once her mother begins to speak Spanish, they gain access to the park. Shakur concludes the anecdote with the following reflection:
” Anybody, no matter who they were, could come right off the boat and get more rights and respect than Amerikan-born blacks” (Shakur 28).
Were, Assata and her family any less black then when they first tried to gain entry?
But at that moment, their blackness took a backseat to the mechanism, or in this case language, manipulated to grant them a cruel duality, where their blackness birthed their exclusion, but the foreign nature of their blackness garnered their temperate inclusion. Thus, they opted out of blackness in order to opt into a white space.
To celebrate Bruno Mars, Cardi B, Jennifer Lopez, and others employed in the same malevolent intentions to maintain the stagnancy of the African displaced in North American as occupying the base of American society, is to wave and smile at those granted entry to a space you were “too black” to attend.
Yes, I am saying that there are plenty of children lacking Bruno Mars, and Cardi’s racial “choice” that exceed their talent, but will never get the chance because they are “too black” to be anything but a rapper, or a “star” on Love and Hip Hop.
To this I would aptly engage criticisms of those who perform a similar deed in vacationing and staying at resorts where their brethren are suffering. To vacation at resorts when our diasporic brethren are rendered invisible by the culturally unenlightened and those indulging in a selective amnesia, who eat shrimp cocktail where diasporic Africans barely have enough to eat, is to also occupy a space established on the exclusion of your kinfolk.
But this is not the criticism.
The criticism is my failure to celebrate those who have the ability to choose whether they function as black. As a black person not subject to this choice, it is essential to my individual and collective survival to note that having black ancestry or a black ancestor does not make you black. People like Cardi B, Bruno Mars, Zoe Saldana, Christina Milian, etc,. have an option whether or not to identify with their black forefathers and foremothers in a way that author Wallace Thurman, singer Sam Cooke, and activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not.
This criticism, in its abundance and fiery presence under my initial Cardi B, post, proves an unintentional declaration of the low regard to which blacks displaced in North America are held. We are expected to smile in the face of a division that discounts our humanity to not seem divisive to those who imbue temperate benefits in the collective bludgeoning of black people from the white strategy of divide and conquer.
______ Conclusion: What Happened When I “came for” Cardi B.
So what happens when you “come for” Cardi B?
You are accused of lacking blackness in a failure to comply to the stereotypical traits expected of black people. It means being accused of dividing a people, while simultaneously subject to the division imbued in an accusation that me, a bearer of the black female form, “jumped Spanish girls in high school because they had better hair than me.” (actual quote)
I want to specify that I never “came for” Cardi B., I simply articulated a stance against cultural exploitation and appropriation encouraged and featured on the white media. I simply stood up for my people and my culture, and the aftermath illustrated diasporic blackness with regards to the black displaced in North America, as more abjected and ostracized than any article I could ever write.
So what happens, when you come for Cardi B?
White people everywhere snicker while the African displaced in Latin America and the Caribbean sulk in the exposition of the envy they hold for those they seek to emulate, but remain reluctant to appreciate and truly identify as.
This envy solely comes from those who pledge an allegiance to an African identity they do not truly feel, who separate rather than sync themselves with their displaced sibling separated on the ship that did not not sever our bloodline, but parted our bodies.
Bodies that in some way, shape, or form face the option (at varying degrees) to “opt” out of blackness, to become a weapon used against those born from the same continental womb, be it via skin color, hair texture, education, tax bracket, ethnicity, etc.
All the conscious community asks is a non-fickle choice to embrace or ignore blackness in part and whole, and to refute any and all options to work against your people.
While the systemic crippling of black folk throughout the diaspora, make it nearly impossible for the average black person, despite their placement in the diaspora, to travel or relocate from one drop-off to the next, in enjoying the richness of a diasporic culture, we, as Africans, must remain mindful of how our bodies can easily transition from familial to fatal.
In journeying to the places where our abducted brethren created culture out of kidnapping (in travel or migrancy), our goals should never be to get in with the master, but to get in with our people.
Thus, my issue with Cardi B, Bruno Mars and other diasporic Africans turned “hispanic” “Afro-Latino” or “American success story,” is not so much their selective blackness (for those who argue that they function as black at all), but that their goal is not to get in with black people, but to get in the black mind and purse. To get into spaces created by those raped to birth the privilege they presently observe.
Nevertheless, there is no shame in refusing to claim those who do not claim you, but there is great shame and entitlement exhibited by those who perceive blacks with the same disdain as our colorless counterparts yet demand support from those they see as subjugates.
So what happened when a being of black female form “came for” Cardi B?
She was reminded that all desire central placement in blackness, but few actually desire blackness.
*Members of the black collective need not occupy their time or thoughts with those who do not claim them, or only claim black to attain access to some benefit. Which is why I choose to end my post here :-).
Black Power, and all Power to the People Who Truly Identify as Black.
*The author places “Afro-Latino” in quotations as she includes all factions of diaspora in her use of the term “black” unless indicated otherwise.
Ninety years ago novelist and journalist Zora Neale Hurston authored How It Feels to be A Colored Me. Its contents speak to Hurston’s experience, a experience that marks a universal plight to exist as black within the paradigms of anti-blackness.
Written in 1928 “colored” accurately referenced the black body. In 2018, it does not. The term is inclusive to those who are also “of color” (when convenient). This post speaks to the black experience, and delineates how it feels to be a black “me.”
Finally, the word “I” (or me) as it appears in this post does not reference “me” specifically. Rather, this post attempts to cast a gaze on individual experience to delineate a collective plight.
How it feels to be a Colored (Black) Me
When I first started college I took the 70 bus down Georgia Avenue in Washington DC with my roommate. There was a man on the back of the bus that watched us as we spoke. Our excitement to be on the bus roused him, and I suppose our New York accents betrayed our status as recent arrivals. When we stopped speaking he looked at me and said:
“You look like you have a stuck up attitude.”
His glassy eyes could not belie the displaced oppositional gaze that seized his sight.
I don’t remember the details of what unfolded next. What I do remember is getting up to leave the bus and stumbling over what I initially thought was something on the floor I failed to see. After exiting the bus, my roommate revealed what at eighteen I wasn’t ready to believe—the embittered young gentleman had tried to trip me.
If I had to, at twenty-nine, sum up what it feels like to be of the black female form-this anecdote would be my choice. To be black and proud is to live a life where so many people and things will try to trip you.
This “tripping” is hardly ever literal. Rather the “stumble” in esteem is commonly rendered in behaviors implemented to convince the black being that they are the err of the world.
I hear the teeth sucking as a speak. I feel the eyes roll as I assert my perspective without fret or apology. Most pretend to be familiar with what I say, or claim ownership over thoughts that never crossed their mind, not in lack of intellect, but in lack of courage to contest their masters– even in thought.
I refuse to bow my head when I walk. Instead I walk, as Maya Angelou proclaimed in “Still I Rise”:
like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room
And I do.
As a daughter of the naturally fecund continent of Africa, gold, oil, diamonds, and countless other earthly treasures run through the veins veiled by my melanated complexion.
My sassiness upsets them all. Uncle Toms and Aunt Thomasina’s begrudge my refusal to be silent. When actualized, their rage does not come from anything specific I have said or done—but my being as a testament to what could have been—how tall they could have been had they not surrendered their back to the bottoms of white feet.
To be black is to bear the expected placement beneath the feet of whites. I am to be grateful to not be hanging off a tree, though forced to endure “alternative” lynchings by way of police brutality, and cultural appropriation. We are to embrace those celebrated for what we’ve have for centuries, to treat it like its new. Specifically, I as a black woman, am expected to kiss Kim Kardashians fake derriere and celebrate Cardi B’s talentless reign over what black people started as an underground means to articulate their experiences of being black in America. I am to praise the celebrated derriere’s of Jennifer Lopez and Selena while my own curves are ridiculed and regarded as evidence of our kinship to animals. I am to envy Angelina Jolie’s lips, and Shakira’s hips, while mine qualify my exclusion.
I am expected to desire he who stole my last name and passed on the money made from my ancestor’s labor to his descendants
I am expected to aspire to be employable not an employer. I am to bear the insult of inclusion while deserving of ownership–to occupy the base when I should be the boss.
I am deemed “angry,” “bitter,” and “difficult” when at my most enlightened. My anger and bitterness though countered by my resiliency, is constantly used as ammo against me and my collective—cited as the reason why we are “single,” “unemployed” and “invisible.”
I have learned yes from no, up from down, and good from bad. I have spent a lifetime combatting the incessant efforts to reduce the unmatched contribution the black collective has made to the world.
To be black is to accomplish in spite of adversity-to learn that if someone or something has to work so hard to convince you that you are invisible, this means that you are most visible—that your adversaries see in you, what many can not see in themselves.
As an abducted child of Africa, I have endured countless efforts to break my spirit, to bend my backbone gradually so eventually I am hunched over in defeat.
To be black is to feel pressured to be sorry all the time. I am to be sorry for occupying traditionally white spaces solely made possible by the displacement of my ancestors. Sorry for not serving my expected function to enhance feelings of white superiority, not expose said superiority as a myth. Sorry for possessing black beauty and excellence in the face of white mediocrity. Sorry for understanding what has been designed to confuse me.
I am constantly warned of the pending “doom” my blackness will bring, that my hair, body, romantic options, etc will all turn into a pumpkin upon the midnight of middle age. I recall being told by an elder that I will one day wake up and “not recognize the person in the mirror.”
“Who is this?” you’ll say, looking desperately for the beauty that was once yours.
These words do not mark truth. Rather they mark the defeat of black beauty soured by a supremacy that convinced the black female form that her gold is garbage. This admonishment speaks of a destitution black women have been nurtured to align with their own blackness. In anticipation of what will become of me— I receive an informal invitation via insult to join the misery and acquiesce to the defeat expected of every person born black.
I am to define beauty as what money can buy, rather than what it cannot. To become engulfed in preoccupation with European noses and Indian hair. To silently state with fake hair, fake eyelashes, fake nails, and fake body parts that the black female form is only beautiful when veiled with the master’s tools.
I am to dim my light, to seem blind to my own beauty, to make everyone “comfortable” despite the daily discomfort imbued by my displacement in this stolen land. I am to bend to fit into doorways too small for the enormity of the beauty, intelligence, and resilience birthed from my blackness.
To be black is to accept death as a way of life. To literally step over the figurative corpses of those killed for their color. Our most notable leaders have experienced physical bullets cast their way as a means to silence the potential contagion of their courage, but we have all had the bullets of a western ideology that needs our paralysis to prolong their fictive reign as superior.
To be black is to also understand death as haunting to the “living,” but inevitably easier than life. To crave its foreboding presence when the fight weights heavily on mind and body. Yet, to truly be black is to choose life and endure its challenge—to look the oppositional gaze in the eye and refuse to be defeated— to refuse to be consumed by all the efforts made to destroy you, efforts to reduce you to a white mind in a black body.
Yet I remain in agreeance with Hurston’s assertion in How it Feels to Be a Colored Me:
“I am not tragically colored.”
Blackness is not a tragedy, it is a gift. The tragedy is having what the world wants, but being convinced that you desire what the world has stolen from you.
To be black is not a source of distress, but a source of strength.
A strength that inspires me to rise, despite every effort to cast me as another lifeless body on the concrete, or buried in a shallow grave of insecurity and mistruths. To rise despite every aspect to trip me or convince me that I am “trippin’’”
Whereas in actuality, when the world thought I was trippin, or tried to trip me, I stumbled into my destiny.
As a being of the black female form, my destiny is to sit on the same majestic thrones occupied my ancestors before slavery, bearing the richness of our legacy without remorse as those green with envy and ignorance throw stones at the throne.
So how does it feel to be colored/black me?
It feels royal.
I wear and write my crown.
Black Power ❤
Happy Birthday Miss Hurston, may you rest in the same peace you give me as a being of the black female form, and a voice of the black perspective.
2017 marked the last complete year I will spend in my twenties, however I could not have anticipated this year being my most resonant year yet. Never have I felt so immersed in the black experience and full of purpose. I admittedly have drifted further away from some family and friends and toward the eternal spirits of our ancestors. I smile less and have taken a firm (er) stance against anti-blackness. A stance that has steered me away from western holidays and non-analytical chatter about white people or whiteness. A stance that makes me unapologetically black and indifferent to the hurt the feelings of those who find happiness, either indirectly or directly, in the disenfranchisement of the black collective.
As George Jackson said in Soledad Brother:
“I am not a very nice person, I confess. I don’t believe in such things as free speech when it’s used to rob and defame me” (Jackson 3905).
I too am indifferent to the “rights” of others if it means my collective disenfranchisement. If that makes me “mean” than so be it, but I rather be mean than an active participant in the oppression of my people.
“Mean-ness” or the callous violence of the white collective, remains pervasive, 2017 being a year of Color Confrontation. The Color Confrontation theory—a theory birthed from the brilliant mind of the late Dr Francis Cress Wesling (author of The Isis Papers—an essential read for every member of the black collective).
The Color Confrontation Theory encapsulates white fixation on color. Wesling asserts
white color deficiency as a catalyst for racism or white oppression against the bearers of color—blacks:
Acutely aware of their inferior genetic ability to produce skin color, whites built the elaborate myth of white genetic superiority. Furthermore, whites set about the huge task of evolving a social, political and economic structure that would support the myth of the inferiority of Blacks and other non-whites. (Wesling 382)
The clout and symbolic profit awarded to whites in the pseudo ability to produce color dominated 2017, from the cover of GQ magazine, to YouTube stars, to a black studies course in a white institution.
——- The White Woman’s Son
One of the most central and conversation generating images this year was that of former NFL star Colin Kaepernick. From events held to get him a job, to t-shirts and hostages created in his honor. Kaepernick-the offspring of a white woman—became the face of contemporary activism. Many bought into the hype and proudly sipped the Kaepernick KoolAid, fatally overlooking how his popularity individualized a collective issue. Namely, there should be no noise regarding Kaepernick’s inability to play for the NFl, and more conversation about freeing all black bodies from the football plantation, about ceasing spectatorship where the oppressed cast an oppositional gaze onto the well-paid workers of white team owners. In actuality, Kap’s central placement has nothing to do with activism at all. His central placement has everything to do with Wesling’s Color Confrontation theory or the ability of a white woman to create color. It has everything to do with reproducing the fatally persistent image of white Jesus figure birthed from the limbs of the mythic white woman who “immaculately conceived” the “savior” of the human race.
Kaepernick therefore is not a figure of freedom, but rather a symbol of what the late Dr. Bobby Wright called mentacide or “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a person’s or group’s mind.” Furthermore, to sip this Kaepernick Koolaid is to drink poison.
—— You too-Youtube?
In 2017, television alternate Youtube continued to thrive– its biggest stars interracial couples, their fetishized “love,” and objectified biracial offspring. The medium prolonged its fifteen minutes of relevancy in several announcements of more interracial children to arrive by early 2018. Specifically, the McClure family, Jamie and Nikki, and Gabe and Babe television, all announced that they were expecting. While overtly a celebration of new life, the socially reproduced image of a white man fathering a child “of color” exposes a fixation on white male ability to create color. This celebrated image functions similarly to the lynchings that populate the formal black past. Lynchings, a fatal act that often followed black male castration—an act Wesling argues is a deliberate attack on the black male ability to produce color—something the white man cannot do innately. Thus, these popular images and their announcements function to usurp the black male innate ability to create color, by fictively casting the white man in this image.
Furthermore, to indulge in the social media celebration of the fictive white male ability to create color as a member of the black collective, is to overlook a power blacks have naturally in favor of a white supplement. These exalted images depict an evolution past cultural appropriation to color appropriation.
——- Creating Color Via Syllabus
Perhaps the biggest lesson I received this year came in the form of a black studies course taught by a non-black person of color literally and figuratively espoused to whiteness. The course proved one of the most violent experiences of my life—bearing a veiled testament to the intent to institutionalize. Black studies as implemented by non-black institutions by non- black scholars, fills a diversity quota and controls what objects of the institution have come to learn about blackness.
The class, taught by a male seeking to make the black plight approachable to non-blacks, a male who gloated of the authority entrusted to him by a black publication supposedly created to centralize black studies, was a figment of the very institution that enslaved abducted Africans centuries ago. The class forced me to reevaluate what were intentions to join the institution to intentions to eschew the institutionalization of the black scholar. Though redirecting my focus, this class proved most resonant in illustrating the various ways whites and non-blacks seek to mimic black ability to create color. Notably, black studies as a discipline not a lifestyle is also a means for the non-black to create color.
In editing black-authored work about the black experience, in selecting what non-black authored texts to illustrate the black plight, the class was a violent demonstration veiled by a smiling instructor in a position enabled by the racism he pretended to be so vehemently against. The biggest testament to his impure intentions came in the professor’s persistent denouncement of the “back to Africa” movement-his consistent articulation of romanticizing Africa as a “counterproductive” move. His deliberate wording mirrors that of countless others who precede him and his attempt to pollute blackness in an increased proximity granted by his “teaching” of black studies. In derailing black bodies from the continent of color, the non-black, innately inferior in their inability to create color, consummates his or her journey to color in steering the hued away from the source of their collective power.
In sum, this year as thoroughly illustrated, in popular culture and in so-called professional arenas, the power of a collective consciousness and the understated power in color. This year exposed blacks as having what the world seeks on sunny days, in war, in continued rape of our mother continent, and the black female body. This year in all its violent attempts to strip the black collective of esteem, inadvertently proves reason to never forget the power and the privilege of being born black.
In closing, I want to acknowledge and thank anyone who has read anything on this site, anyone who has commented, anyone who has subscribed, and even those who have sought to disrupt the stride toward consciousness, thank you for giving me a reason to write- and a reason to life.
Thank you, my conscious collective, for affording me a platform to cast a collaborative contribution to our collective. For sharing the ups, downs, and frustrations of what it means to be black in a global paradigm of white dominance. But most of all, thank you for bearing a testament to the beauty, intelligence, and dedication of the black race.
To the ancestors and elders who inspire this blog, from Margaret Garner to Erica Garner– From Nat Turner to Dick Gregory–your spirits are ever-present and ever-resonant.
I became familiar with the story of Recy Taylor in my research efforts for a project I am assembling on the black female form and sexual assault. The late Miss Taylor was raped physically by six white men, but also raped by a system who failed to punish her attackers who after violating her continued to enjoy a life of privilege. But her story is not about them.
A new mother and young wife at the time of her attack, Taylor illustrates the black familial unit attacked by the white male phallus who feels big in disrupting the prodigious presence of the black family. Her attack and the sheer disregard to which she was treated illustrates the black female body as capital.
Recy Taylor’s case proved a harbinger for the 1959 gang rape of Betty Jean Owens, the 1988 gang-rape of Tawana Brawley , and the countless other attacks against black women never reported or not deemed newsworthy. Taylor’s case exposes white male terror as inflicted onto the black female form remains as isolated incidents of a few bad “apples.”
Hearing that Miss Taylor has passed at the age of ninety-seven placed a heavy feeling in my heart. At the risk of judgment, I will acknowledge that his heavy feeling had little to nothing to do with her passing—as death is probably the most natural thing to happen to Miss Taylor since the birth of her child. The heavy feeling in my heart came from knowing that for decades this Miss Taylor had to walk the earth in a body violated by both white men and the system created to normalize white terror by deeming it legal. Taylor’s story reflects the countless black bodies throughout the black diaspora born out out rape, forced to navigate life despite the psychological bruises imbued by the white phallus actualized in person and in law.
The popularized image of Taylor wearing a black veil also proved a psychological bruise to the black collective. It is not the black female form that wears a veil. It is the oppositional gaze that wears a veil, a veil that distorts justice to be any and everything that upholds the white republic.
So while the black female form who lives to be elderly fulfills the American dream to grow old, she does so with wounds inflicted and infested by sorcery of white supremacy who conjure racism as a spell solely reversible in the esteem targeted by every facet of white supremacy. So to live to see ninety-seven granted Taylor an ability to watching her child grow up, but through the same eyes that saw six men take turns entering her body, the same eyes that watched her rapists walk free while she remained imprisoned in the mental aftermath of the cavalier disregard to which the world holds the black female form. To live to see ninety seven, is to die over ninety seven times, to try to keep your head above water for nearly a century as those you love drown, or drift further and further away. I can only hope that Taylor’s transition issues her a peace simply not granted to her in life.
A peace deprived of the black female form that dares to speak up. Taylor’s life is most resonant in illustrating the cost of courage. Taylor did not bear her injustice in silence, she spoke up. She did not simply speak up for herself, but for every black women stifled in fear or systemically silenced throughout the black diaspora. She exposed the evil entitlement white men feel towards the black female form. She illustrates that hashtags like “metoo” still fail to acknowledge the black female victim of sexual assault.
The black woman—a sexual fantasy, a gender hybrid, canvass of misplaced sexual anxiety, is the invisible victim of sexual violence. To acknowledge black female victimhood is to acknowledge the evil that started this country, that populated plantations, that occupied white men on idle evenings, a violent pastime that produced white female privilege and maintained the white male patriarchy that dominates the globe.
Taylor’s story is a true horror story, epitomizing what Hortense Spillers referenced as porno-troping. The pornotroped black female flesh is a captive of the white supremacist gaze resulting in her habitual rape. Taylor’s life is best illustrated as what Spiller articulates “as a category of physical powerlessness that slides into a more general ‘powerlessness,’ resonating through various centers of human and social meaning” (Spillers 67). The individual and collective disregard Taylor experienced as a sexual assault victim deemed her a criminal for what functions as a crime when aligned with white women. Furthermore, Taylor represents black female powerlessness in a system of white supremacy where the black female form remains espoused to her status as property not person.
Thus, while the modern world continues to imply that things “are so much better,” Recy Taylor in life and death unveils the present as the spitting image of the past.
There is a sense of purpose in studying the persistent reality of whites as ruthless in ensuring their dominance remains stagnant. Whites have killed, stolen, raped, and eaten blacks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Taylor’s experience illustrates that there is nothing “they” won’t do to keep “us” down. Simultaneously, suggesting that there should be nothing we won’t do to “keep on” in the spirit of a woman who swam to sure despite the desperate attempts of the tides of white supremacy to drown her.
a living testament to the incomparable black female spirit.
“Capture, imprisonment, is the closest to being dead that one is likely to experience in this life.”—George L. Jackson
By twenty-seven, Saartje Baartman had already transitioned— her brain and genitals jarred by a white scientist George Curvier praised for his “formal” distinction between white and black women. Baartman had only lived to see twenty-five years, her time on earth a cruel exposition of black beauty as “exotic” or weird— and thereby worthy of exploitation. Similarly, Margaret Garner, an enslaved black mother and wife, was also physically gone by twenty-seven. In fact, by her twenty-seventh birthday she had already been physically gone five years–her spirit a burning flame bearing the testimony of the black female form and her “awful beauty.”
Hidden black figure of Canada, Marie Angelique lived to see past twenty-seven, but not extensively. By twenty-seven, like the black female forms that preceded and followed her time on earth, Angelique had experienced an existence sullied by inhumanity. She would be murdered seven years after twenty-seven for seizing a freedom withheld from her throughout her life.
At twenty-seven, young wife and new mother Recy Taylor bided the consequences of speaking out against acts of white terrorism cast onto the black body. At twenty seven, she bore the strain of direct terror for two years, despite the drastic efforts taken to destroy her.
Erica Garner, at the age of twenty-seven, daughter of foremothers Saartje Baartman and namesake Margret Garner whose lives also illustrate a prose of strength birthed from loss and pain, has also prematurely transitioned.
Her transition emerges amidst the countless reports of her most recent heart attack, and amidst an outpour of support from the community to which she dedicated her life.
As illustrated in the black female forms that herald her fate, Erica Garner’s transition, while heartbreaking, is hardly new or shocking. The severity of white supremacy is utterly reduced in aligning its wrath as solely contingent to overt demonstrations. This statement does not function to discount the visible murders of Laura Nelson (1911), Jesse Washington (1916), and Philando Castile and Alton Sterling (2016), but to articulate a psychological version of these physical acts as a common wound festered within the bodies of blacks throughout the diaspora.
Though associated with her father Eric Garner who in 2014 was physically suffocated by a white man after articulating his deteriorating state with the words “I can’t breathe,” Miss Garner depicts a black female reality often overlooked in the “success stories” that seem to displace the horror experienced by the black female body during what should be the most magical years of their life. These horrors erode the core of the black female form from the inside and slowly seize mind and body over the duration of a lifetime. Miss Garner experienced a very public attack on her sanity, yet still very much suffered in silence. Her love for her people was loud, her commitment to justice was loud, but the aggravated exterior that lurked beneath a strong exterior was silent. Similarly, the late Recy Taylor, when photographed, was always dignified, strong and beautiful. While the photos captured her beautiful mahogany skin and impeccable bone structure, it failed to capture the scars of her flesh, the same flesh exposed in the harsh beatings and sexual assault of our foremothers.
Commonly, Recy Taylor and Erica Garner illustrate the wounds that lie beneath the black female form, and symbolize the countless black bodies overlooked in fetishizing those visibly tortured and murdered.
As descendants of those with wounded flesh beneath brazen bodies, our strength often masks the collective scars of our past, veiling the reality of our collective wound.
Though bearing a fifty year age difference,Taylor and Garner departed earth two days apart, collectively mirroring the shared experience of the black female form that attempts to stay afloat as the tides of white supremacy continue to rise in the baselessness of white evil. At twenty-seven, Miss Garner bore similar burdens to a woman three times her age–exposing the depth of black female pain as hardly compartmentalized in age. Whether the ten year old black girl who looks to a noose to silence words of torment, a twenty-four year old enslaved black female bound to the merciless grasp of her master, a ninety-seven year old sexual assault victim made to accept an apology as justice, or a twenty-seven year old young mother, activist and daughter of a murdered black man, the black female form holds hands across the collective paralysis gifted by the sorcery of white supremacy.
Taylor and Garner collaboratively illustrate the black female pain that lies beneath, a pain that does not insist that we are “tragically colored” to use the term of Zora Neale Hurston. No, it means we are triumphantly resilient.
May Recy Taylor, Erica Garner and the countless other black bodies transitioned from the pain of life to a space over the rainbow, rest in power. May their pain not weight us down, but lift us up and toward one another.
To my dearly departed black queens: whether seven minutes, seven, twenty-seven or ninety seven years–the black collective is grateful to have called you sister, and that you were here at all. ❤
To most I write this letter in response to the unfortunate news that has made its way to the front of the headlines. But I write this open letter from one black female form to another, from one daddy’s girl to another, across the fictive differences that mask a shared experience.
I write to you as I write myself and each member of the black female collective. This letter serves as a means to articulate the whispers of my mind, to pay homage you and the millions of others born to a black female form that dared to “aspire” in the suffocating world of white supremacy.
I just want to start by stating what I would be remiss to overlook. The news is inundated with news of your recent health developments as its latest depiction of the black misfortune consistently featured on white media for consumption by the oppositional gaze. Just some three years ago, the world rendered you the same fate they render all those born with the black female form—invisibility. But now that your visibility imbues a symbolic profit for the sorcerers of white supremacy—you are a prominent headline of white digital media. I can almost hear their smiles with every headline, happy to report another sad song painted by a black being.
Your story, your existence, however, are many things,but sad is not one of them. You turned what could have destroyed your life into purpose. You turned a silence that could have inundated your physiological and social self into the confident articulation of a collective cause. You turned an individual tragedy into a collective awakening, and for that I salute you.
Your public image, mirrors what the conventional gaze saw in popularized black female images from Mamie Till to Sabrina Fulton. To some, these images were public mourners, to others these figures were the villains who birthed what the white man had to “clean up.” To the white world you function similarly. But for the community whom you represent, you illustrate the rose that emerges as beautiful, strong and fecund from the cold, hard concrete.
Your dedication to exposing the system that holds the black collective in a cholkhold, illustrates what Christina Sharpe references as aspiration— a term she analyzes in its variants in In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. To disclose the deliberate and negligent behavior that followed your father Mr. Eric Garner’s final moments Sharpe notes the following: “And though paramedics have arrived on the scene, they gave him no assistance. No aspiration” (Sharpe 110). This note is imperative in exposing the absence of white presence with regard to black bodies. Namely, though present at the scene, the black body is absent as victim— a point thoroughly explored by numerous black scholars over the years.
Similarly, the white media is “present” in covering your status updates. I know you know exactly what I am talking about– that picture with you with your mouth open speaking into a bullhorn. The selected picture is not so much a picture of you, as it is a portrait of an action portrayed as synonymous to the black female form—speaking loudly.
The selected image appearing to represent your “person” is a deliberate attempt to villanize the black female form—and deem her absent and otherwise unworthy of understanding. In contemplating this absence, my mind thinks of all the non-black offspring of murdered or deceased parents and their consistent alignment with innocence. So while the common sentiment “we are all born sinners” remains cliche, time and time again this white world makes it evident that these “sinners” are black. The selected image casts you as one of these black sinners, overly illustrating that while present in picture, you are absent in spirit. Yes you metaphorically and literally raise your voice to articulate conflict, but the featured of image of you silences your voice and freezes you into a predetermined mold antithetical to who you truly are.
This feature exposes an absence of empathy, or any acknowledgement for the climate of white supremacy as a catalyst for black physical and mental illness. What remains absent is any understanding of you as a human being. This absence is the same neglect that has engulfed the black collective for centuries, something that will continue to encase our fate as long we remain silent in our mistreatment.
The white gaze was also ever-present in the murder of your dad Eric Garner, where he said eleven times that he could not breathe, but ever-absent in actually acknowledging the evil intentions that imbued this act. The evil intention that prompted the soldiers of white supremacy to approach Garner, or any other black body, ignores the white male terrorism that continues to end multiple lives simultaneously. The myth of the white victim remains more pervasive than the truth of the white terrorist who stole a people, a culture, and countless dreams to transform a myth into reality . Both you and your dad, as portrayed by this deceptive media illustrates the absence that continues to pollute the black stories that makes the news– an act that appears an advancement but continues to obliterate the black effort to aspire.
I saw a young black girl yesterday donning a short naturally textured hair style to which she wore in a platinum blonde hue. To most she was merely working—to the conscious gaze she is suffocating in a world that taught her natural texture is more digestible if an unnatural color–suffocating to be seen in a world that overlooks her beauty. Black bodies in partnerships with non blacks are also suffocating, trying to breathe in a world that steers them into the cowardice act of eschewing the duality of the black experience, experienced in a black love relationship. Those who romanticize and overvalue money are also suffocating, systemically bludgeoned to desire what can not grant them freedom, what will not help them breathe. As a people the act of aspiration is a constant struggle— a struggle guaranteed in sharing the company of those who thrive in our destitution.
So I say this to say queen, I salute you for daring to aspire when the sorcery of white supremacy tried to smother you with the pillow of parental deterioration. As you know, centuries ago black bodies saw similar acts of cruelty where young black children witnessed their parent’s murders or near death experiences as acts to smother their ambition or desire to aspire. But you didn’t let the sorcerers cripple you. The limb they tried to sever in seizing your father’s body, you persisted beyond. You succeeded beyond adversity, proving that we as a people can overcome obstacles maintained with more care than black schools, homes, libraries, etc.
As I am sure you know, the trope of the “fatherless” black child is a pervasive image in our white supremacist society. The continued war the white supremacist sorcery maintains with the black familial structure continues to render the black child conventionally fatherless. Specifically, there are so many black offspring that witness the premature deaths of their brazen parents, or are forced to endure the berating cowardice that renders many fiery black spirits limbless in fighting their battles. Yet, none of us are fatherless. Our ancestors and elders continue to inspire and aspire long after their transitions. You illustrate what a father’s love can do for their children, you personify how a man denied the right to breathe in life can breathe through his daughter.
Your relationship with your dad personifies the relationships we should all have with our elders and ancestors, relationships that do not seek to personify conventional functionality as determined by our oppressors, but relationships that transcend the boundaries of mortality and time.
These relationships are collectively crucial. We need them like we need you. But as we’ve never lost those whose bodies are limited to the past, we will never lose you either.
I write this letter to you on the fourth day of Kwanzaa-Ujamma—cooperative economics, but on the eve of Nia- purpose. Your efforts to fight illustrate the essence of economics—that true currency, true value, and true riches, are to have what money can’t buy. Money can’t buy the richness of your spirit, and your invaluable contribution Ms. Garner. You’ve “garnered” an irreversible symbolic profit to the black community and you personify and incite purpose in all you’ve done, and will continue to do.
You bring all the Kwanzaa symbols to life, giving your people what money can’t buy–hope.
The whispers of the collective conscious are the wind beneath your wings, so whether you fly back towards earth or beyond- we are with you as you are with us.
‘Tis the time of year where the general population of the northern hemisphere prepares to engage in the collective amnesia known as the holiday season. For most of my life, I too was an enthusiastic participant in the collective amnesia of American culture. I awaited the baked macaroni and cheese, yams with marshmallows, cabbage, and my favorite— the elaborate desert table. I anticipated the eating competition between my cousins, preceded by a morning of baking and food preparation. Now, the holidays do not bear the once nostalgic aroma of family and food, but a forgetfulness fatal to my pending consciousness. It is difficult if not impossible to find pleasure in a holocaust guided as a holiday. Simply put, my sentiments towards this holiday now boil down to a single critical query I ask myself amidst the anniversary of the Thanksgiving holocaust: could you eat over the slain bodies of whom assumed the best of those with the worst intentions?
The holiday, aligned with turkey, gratitude, and cranberry sauce, is a strategic means to veil the indigenous holocaust, resulting from this white supremacist nation’s first act of cultural genocide via gentrification.
Although not commonly aligned with Thanksgiving, cultural genocide via gentrification is a common topic of the contemporary world. One that many within the black collective will readily engage with fervor and passion, emotions that dissolve when faced with the temptation to engage in the performative happiness that dominates western culture at designated times throughout a twelve month period. What whites did to the indigenous centuries ago serves as a model for the gentrification presently seen in Dallas, Oakland, Washington DC, Brooklyn, Harlem, Los Angeles, New Orleans etc.. Thus, to celebrate this holiday is to celebrate gentrification guised by the cheap perfume of collective amnesia. An amnesia that instructs objects exteriorized by white supremacy that is now time to celebrate and acknowledge one’s family.
It is not a coincidence that this invitation to celebrate takes place when it does. This celebration, if not a veil, could very well take place any other day throughout the year. But the celebration occurs on the anniversary of a pioneer act of white cruelty, to issue the decesendants of these white settlers yet another victory in fomenting the entire world to stealthily celebrate their abjection.
Thus, to not celebrate Thanksgiving is an act of resistance— a deliberate act to repel the forgetfulness that often bleeds into other areas of life. A forgetfulness that incites the enslaved black mind to say things like “look how far we’ve come,” and to smile in individuality when the collective remains hypnotized by the detriment of white dominance.
This resistance is important, in instances like “Thanksgiving” and other commercial American holidays that often prove an pseudo escape from year round racial conflict in its performative happiness. The term “performative happiness,” speaks directly to the appearance of a happiness fictively implied, in the nurtured emotions of a particular western event. The performative aspect incites many to act “happy” even in face of murders, systemic lynchings and economical and educational disenfranchisement, amongst other injustices. This performative happiness is a mask that both the oppressors and the oppressed wear to downplay a reality that when fully exposed seems far too terrible to be true. Furthermore, it is imperative that we, as a collective, resist the temptation to fold when a facet of white supremacy superficially seems to feel good.
The holiday season may feel good on the surface level, but freedom feels better. It is not freedom to sing over the cries of those sacrificed for the same system that continues to regard blacks as sub-humans worthy of subjugation, humiliation, and murder. The same system that capitalized on this performative happiness to breed the two attributes that maintain this white supremacist nation—power and money.
Now, when I think back on Thanksgivings past, I do so with a guilt and embarrassment. So while my memories are filled with the faces of many I will never see again in life, my heart hangs heavy in not creating enough of our own occasions to see and celebrate one another. I view these old versions of myself as acquiescing to a system by performing a happiness that one cannot have when possessed by the systemic tyranny of white supremacy.
To implement the language of the late great Malcolm X, we as a people have been “bamboozled.” We have been tricked and deceived. We as a collective have been hypnotized into sitting at a dinner table to celebrate white victory. Rather than plan our escape from the racial labyrinth, many within the collective will perform as told—eating themselves into a stupor, placing gratitude where they should place grief.
Rather than contemplate the fate of this countries first inhabitants, many will mimic their naivety and trust for a people not even deserving of a proper salutation—destined to repeat the fateful ending of a story buried beneath dead turkeys. A story that ends in a massacre mirrored in the symbolic “blackness” of the holiday that follows, where the fictive sentimentality of Thanksgiving precedes the capitalistic fervor of the “giving” season. The “giving season” of course refers to the “season” where the oppressed “give” to their masters.
So just as centuries ago whites ate with those they would soon massacre and steal their land, white supremacists allow the oppressed to feast, before they are feasted on by the hollow promise of the “holiday” season. Except now, due to centuries of ingraining the sorcery of white supremacy into their objects, whites need not take, but receive what the oppressed now readily give as part of a performative happiness.
In closing, I want to emphasize that the intention of this post is criticize any individual, but a system that renders its supremacy in a serenade of poultry, parades, and pumpkin pie. Nevertheless, whatever you choose to do today or any other day throughout the year, I hope that at the very least this post will prove food for thought.